It was a normal family gathering. Tom and Mary sat watching their daughter Mildred, as Tom’s dad fiddled with a few adjustments on his new video camera.
“Ok, it is working now”, he said, while his wife bustled around in her usual way. They had lunch and were now sitting down waiting for something worth watching on the television. But for the moment, they could think of nothing more enjoyable than watching Mildred learn how to walk.
Mildred was just a year old and her steps as she made her way along the furniture still had lurching, unbalanced quality of a tipsy sailor. She pull herself up against her mother’s skirt, then spied a toy on the other side of the rug and without stopping to think of the consequences, she lunged for it. She was perhaps even more surprised than the onlookers to find that her foot had actually taken a step.
Tom and Mary reacted as all parents do in such cases. They shouted. Surely no other child had learnt to walk as quickly or as well as their first born daughter! Mary beamed at her in-laws and as Tom swung his daughter up into the air, his father Bernard rewound the video tape to make sure that he had captured the lovely scene.
“Here, take a look.. I managed to film her”, he said, peering into the camera monitor. Tom and Mary duly lined up. But Mildred was too pleased with her new found legs to stay still for long.
She pulled herself up again and took off in a different direction, although it was by no means certain that it was a deliberate action, or likely the pull of gravity as she tottered.
Bernard grabbed the camera again, as Mary dropped onto her knees to try to clear his path and removing the toys, but she wasn’t quick enough to pull the foot stool out of the way. Mildred caught the edge of it and toppled over, but somehow managed to regain her balance in mid-air and straightening up continued on her journey of discovery.
Later that afternoon, the whole family stood in front of the television recorder to plug in the video tape recorder and watch the day’s event. There, Mildred was pulling herself up on the sofa, there she was taking off again. And there she was, crashing into the foot stool… but… she didn’t regain her balance on her own.
On the video, an elderly woman bent down into the picture and a protective hand was reached out to stop Mildred from falling. She pulled her straight again and with a little pat on her bottom, she sent her on her way again.
It would be difficult to explain the reaction in the room. We all sit down to watch our own home videos and none of us ever expect to see anything that wasn’t there when we were filming….an extra person.
At first, all four blamed it on the camera, then on the video, but there was absolutely nothing else out of the ordinary. The rest of the video was perfectly clear and normal. Eventually all of them had to accept the fact that that was no image from a faulty tape.
The woman on the video was perfectly clear, solid and her movements were deliberate. There was a moment of silence as they all tried to register what they just saw on the video tape.
The video was re-wound, and they watched it again. There she was. An old woman, dressed in black and in the sort of clothes worn at the turn of the century. The thing that they found hardest to cope with was the way she seemed so real .. so normal. perhaps it would have been easier to accept if she fitted in to the idea of ghosts, perhaps if she had seen through or draped in chains and rags!
There was very little they could do. they watched the video literally dozens of times. It is hard to imagine what you would do yourself in such a situation? The image of the woman caught their attention and imagination, but the simple gesture of saving Mildred from the fall also tugged at their emotions.
After a few months, they met and decided to delete the video. it was almost with a sigh of relief that they played the blank tape back to see nothing but snow and hiss.
The years passed and Tom and Mary moved house, wondering to themselves whether the “lady” would be left behind.
Mildred was nine years old by then and they had kept the story quiet, afraid of seeing amusement in their new friends’ eyes.
One night, stuck for a babysitter, a friend of theirs offered to stay with Mildred and her younger sister. Normally Mary was reluctant to leave her children with someone they didn’t know too well but Mike was in his 30s and quite responsible.
When they came back home, the first questions were the normal ones “How were the kids? Everything OK?” Mike mumbled some platitudes but said very little until Mary had gone upstairs to make sure that the children were tucked in properly. Tom poured Mike a drink and they both sank into the armchairs.
“Tom.. em.. this is a lovely house.. quite old, isn’t it?” Mike probed. “I just thought you know, whether you had ever seen anything strange?”. Tom caught the strange tone of his question pretty quick considering how late it was. “What kind of strange?”
“Well” Mike said, “I was just watching television and I saw something out of the corner of my eye. And when I turned round there was this woman. This little old woman dressed in black, knitting.. There, in that chair in the corner. Just sitting here knitting. It was incredible, I mean, she just ignored me as though she was the one who was meant to be here and not me!.”
The little old lady has not been seen again since then. Mary’s sister Linda has since been to see a clairvoyant who told her that she has a guide probably her great, great grandmother who is taking care of her and of another family member whose name starts with an “M”.
This post was written by Nadia Vella